Taste of Ethiopia

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To all the HCHV readers, it has been a while!  But as an old but clever marketing ploy once touted, good things come to those who wait.  The beginning of 2017 has been quite a busy and rather stress-filled time for both the carnivore and I.  We have tried to post and while we have enjoyed several meals, we just couldn’t get our posts done with all the chaos.  After a particularly challenging week, Larry offered to take me somewhere special.  Now I’m sure he will describe his feelings going into this endeavor but I will add that he was definitely going out of his comfort zone by agreeing to take me to my all-time favorite place, last meal-worthy, Taste of Ethiopia.  Obviously I have been here before, actually I have come for years, converting friends one by one into lovers of this cuisine.  While I’m not successful 100% of the time, my friend, Woinee, owner of Taste of Ethiopia, has helped me convince the majority.

So we decided on Saturday evening and I began to plan my intake for Saturday.  Let me warn you that while the stereotypes abound for Ethiopian cuisine, this is not light food.  It is real whole food that fills your belly and warms your soul; therefore I ate lightly all day to prepare.  I prepared the carnivore with a description but when we arrived, Samson “Sam”, our server also gave him the rundown.  All the food is served family style on a circular platter lined with injera.  Injera is a spongy bread made from the Teff grain, reminiscent of sourdough.  He explained that the food would be served with rolls of injera that would be used in lieu of utensils.  Luckily I had prepared my carnivore and he was unshaken.  I did warn Sam that my carnivore would be partaking in meat and that we would need a bowl barrier to keep any meat juices from migrating into my territory.  Sam was happy to accommodate and we ordered.  I, of course, knew my order by heart.

When the food arrived, Sam arranged it beautifully on the platter as you can see in the photo.  I took a roll of injera and demonstrated my honed skill.  Larry followed suit.  I started with my favorite, the Yemisir Wot, lentils in berbere sauce.  Oh sweet nectar how have I stayed away so long?!  I hardly know how to describe it other than spicy goodness.  Berbere sauce is not like any other cuisine.  Personally I would like it extra spicy but Woinee has shared that the average diner can’t handle that much so we have to cook that for ourselves.  Next I dug into my second favorite, Ater kik, yellow split peas with spices namely turmeric.  These are very mild and the carnivore liked them quite a bit (yes I shared!).  Finally as a vegan I still must have my veggies from time to time so I dug into my third course, Fesolia.  This is string beans and carrots with onions and more seasonings (turmeric, ginger, etc.) and trust me they go together better than peas and carrots, cooked to perfection with the right amount of bite.  I continued to switch amongst the three while sneaking a bit of salad in as well because even that with its lettuce and tomato lightly dressed was absolute perfection.

I give Taste of Ethiopia five rutabagas without a second thought.  I knew that before going in.  Honestly I was just hoping we wouldn’t have to get a cheeseburger for the carnivore afterwards.  And not only is the food amazing but the hospitality is too as both Sam and of course, Woinee, always available for kind words, a smile and hug, made us feel right at home.  This is likely why she opened her second location down in South Austin, to spread her love.  I look forward to returning as always and bringing not only the carnivore back but anyone else who wishes to try something new!

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Hello friends,

It has been awhile since our last post; and for that, I owe you an apology.  Work and life got in the way for a bit, and I am sorry that we fell short of our goal of at least one post per week. Nevertheless, we are back in the game and anxious to share our most recent dining experience.  I must warn our loyal readers that this post is a bit outside my comfort zone because anyone who knows me well, knows that my palate is not a fan of ethnic foods of which I am unfamiliar.  However, when my vegan cohort shared with me that, in the event she had but one meal left to eat on this earth, only Ethiopian food would do, I knew I owed it to her to open my mind to the experience. So, after an especially stressful week, I chose to surprise her with a night out on the town that began with a trip to her favorite Ethiopian restaurant – Taste of Ethiopia, in Pflugerville.

Sufficed to say, I have never had Ethiopian food.  I had no idea what to expect but I did have a fear that it was going to smack of curry and other pungent spices of which I am not a fan.  I am happy to say that, though there were certainly flavors that I had never tasted before, curry was not one of them!  The quaint and presumably authentic restaurant smelled of peppers, cumin, onions and I think, Jasmine.  Walking inside made me very aware of the fact that I was out of my element, and I was somewhat uncomfortable for about 30 seconds.  Then we met Woinee.

Woinee and her husband Solomon are the owners of Taste of Ethiopia. Woinee is not only the purveyor of fine Ethiopian foods, she also possesses one of the sweetest smiles I have ever seen, and is the giver of a fantastic hug!  Apparently, I am not special because it is said that every customer gets the opportunity to bask in the warmth of Woinee’s smile, and nearly every customer gets to feel the genuineness of Woinee’s embrace.   While that may be the case, I prefer to think that Woinee deemed me worthy of her hug, and that is why she chose to give me a goodbye squeeze.  I am special!  And no one can tell me otherwise.

Back to the meal. .  . . . it was different.  I ordered the Siga Tibbs – tender tip pieces of marinated beef sautéed with peppers, onions, jalapeno, rosemary and other traditional spices.  The food is served family style atop a large sourdough like “pancake”. Apparently you can’t find a fork or spoon in Ethiopia because you eat with your hands and little pieces of bread called injera.    You tear off a piece of the rolled dough and snatch up bits of the meat or lentils from the communal platter.  This was odd for me but the food was tasty so I was more than willing to partake like the locals do.  I enjoyed the food a lot.

As the restaurant is the Vegan’s favorite eatery, there is little surprise that they have quality vegan options.  In this instance, it was the carnivore that was out of his comfort zone so the shoe truly was on the other foot.

Our server, Sam, was wonderful.  He made me feel comfortable and was very patient as I asked questions about the menu.  And when I vehemently declined the lamb option, he did a great job of hiding his inability to understand how I could possibly not like the taste of a young sheep.  What can I say?  This carnivore is not a fan of baby sheep.   I give Taste of Ethiopia a very respectable three cow faces.  I have to say that I am proud of myself for agreeing to try something 100% new and I will surely return with the vegan in tow.  The smile on her face as she devoured her meal, coupled with Woinee’s hospitality toward each and every guest is enough to make me want to visit again soon.  And I especially want to try a cup of the fresh Ethiopian coffee brewed in house.  According to the vegan, I have to try that before 3:00 pm or risk being awake for two days.

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